Category Archives: ESI

On TAP: Targeted, Automated, and Proportional Collection for Modern e-Discovery

By John Patzakis

Proportionality is now the hottest legal issue in the area of eDiscovery, with the largest number of eDiscovery-related cases in the past year addressing the subject. eDiscovery attorney Kelly Twigger leads a team who produced an excellent analysis of 2020 case law, noting “a big jump to 889 in 2020” of cases addressing proportionality, “which represented nearly a third (31%) of all (eDiscovery) case law decisions last year.” The report notes that “[p]roportionality arguments have become a weapon in arguing scope of discovery and the sharp rise in disputes has illustrated the need for more systematic and standardized approaches to assessing proportionality in cases today.” 

Proportionality-based eDiscovery is a goal that all judges and corporate attorneys want to attain. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), parties may discover any non-privileged material that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case. Lawyers that take full advantage of the proportionality rule can greatly reduce cost, time and risk associated with otherwise inefficient eDiscovery.

Proportionality is getting a further boost as George Washington University Law School is developing an important proportionality benefit-and-burden model that provides a practical structure for assessing claims of proportionality. The model features a heat map mechanism to identify relevant custodians and data sources to enable a more objective application of proportionality, thereby facilitating negotiations and better informing the bench.

The GW Law model is much needed, as while there is keen awareness of proportionality in the legal community, attaining the benefits requires the ability to operationalize workflows as far upstream in the eDiscovery process as possible. For instance, when you’re engaging in data over-collection, which in turn runs up of a lot of human time and processing costs, the ship has largely sailed before you are able to perform early case assessments and data relevancy analysis, as much of the discovery costs have already been incurred at that point. The case law and the Federal Rules provide that the duty to preserve only applies to potentially relevant information, but unless you have the right operational processes in place, you’re losing out on the ability to attain the benefits of proportionality.

An example of a process that effectively applies proportionality on an operational basis would be an iterative exercise to identify relevant custodians, their data sources, applicable data ranges, file types and agreed upon keywords, following the process outlined in  McMaster v. Kohl’s Dep’t Stores, Inc., No. 18-13875 (E.D. Mich. July 24, 2020), and collect only the data that is responsive to this specific criteria. The latest enterprise collection tech from Relativity and X1 enable such detailed and proportional criteria to be applied in-place, at the point of collection. This reduces the data volume funnel by as much as 98 percent from over-collection models, yet with increased transparency and compliance. In other words, a collection process that targeted, automated and proportional, instead of one that is overbroad and manual.

To learn more about these concepts, please tune in on April 13, where attorney David Horrigan of Relativity and Mandi Ross of Prism Litigation Technology will be leading a webinar to discuss the legal and operational considerations and benefits of proportionality. The webinar will also feature a live exercise performing a pre-collection proportionality analysis on remote employee data. You can register here.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, ECA, eDiscovery, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, ESI, law firm, Preservation & Collection, proportionality

Full Disk Imaging Not Required for eDiscovery Collections

In Fact, Courts and Legal Commentators Disfavor the Practice

By John Patzakis[1]

The collection and preservation of Electronically Stored Information (ESI) in the enterprise remains a significant and costly pain point for organizations. Leading industry research firm Gartner notes that eDiscovery collection and preservation processes “can be intrusive, time consuming and costly.”[2]  And recent court decisions imposing sanctions on corporate litigants who failed to meet their ESI preservation obligations are symptomatic of these pain points.[3]

A key issue regarding collection is that many in the eDiscovery services community standardized on full disk imaging as their default collection practice.  This is problematic for several reasons. For one, full-disk imaging is burdensome because the process often involves service providers traveling out to the individual custodians, which is very disruptive to employees, not to mention time consuming. Additionally, as eDiscovery processing and hosting fees are usually calculated on a per-gigabyte basis, costs are increased exponentially. In a word, this is overkill, with much more effective and efficient options now available.

Full disk images capture every bit and byte on a hard drive, including system and application files, unallocated space and a host of irrelevant user-created data. While full disk images may be warranted in some limited situations, the expense and burden associated with the practice can be quite extensive, particularly in matters that involve multiple custodians.

It is established law that the duty to preserve evidence, including ESI, extends only to relevant information[4]  The vast majority of ESI on a full disk image will typically constitute irrelevant information. As stated by one court, “imaging a hard drive results in the production of massive amounts of irrelevant, and perhaps privileged, information.”[5] The highly influential Sedona Conference notes: “Civil litigation should not be approached as if information systems were crime scenes that justify forensic investigation at every opportunity to identify and preserve every detail.”

And that: “Forensic data collection requires intrusive access to desktop, server, laptop, or other hard drives or media storage devices.”  While noting the practice is acceptable in some limited circumstances, “making a forensic copy of computers is only the first step of an expensive, complex, and difficult process of data analysis . . . it should not be required unless circumstances specifically warrant the additional cost and burden and there is no less burdensome option available.”[6]

This disfavoring of forensic imaging is also reflected in the increased emphasis of proportionality under recent amendment to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1). The over-arching theme from case law and the Federal Rules is that ESI preservation efforts should be reasonable, proportionate, and targeted to only relevant information, as opposed to being overly broad and unduly burdensome.

Courts do require that ESI be collected in a forensically sound manner, which does not mean a full forensic disk image is required, but generally does entail that metadata is not altered and a documented chain of custody is maintained. More advanced enterprise class technology can accomplish remote searches across multitudes of custodians that are narrowly tailored to collect only potentially relevant information while preserving metadata at the same time. This process is better, faster and dramatically less expensive than manual disk imaging.

In fact, The Sedona principles do outline such an alternative to forensic disk imaging: “Automated or computer-assisted collection involves using computerized processes to collect ESI meeting certain criteria, such as search terms, file and message dates, or folder locations. Automated collection can be integrated with an overall electronic data archiving or retention system, or it can be implemented using technology specifically designated to retrieve information on a case-by-case basis.”

This language maps directly to the capabilities of X1 Distributed Discovery (X1DD), which enables parties to perform targeted search and collection of the ESI of up to thousands of endpoints over the internal network without disrupting operations. The search results are returned in minutes, not weeks, and thus can be highly granular and iterative, based upon multiple keywords, date ranges, file types, or other parameters. This approach typically reduces the eDiscovery collection and processing costs by at least one order of magnitude (90%). This method is sound from an evidentiary standpoint as the collected data is preserved in its native file format with its metadata intact. X1DD features a solid chain of custody and robust logging, tracking and reporting.

And in line with the concepts outlined in the revised Sedona Commentary, X1DD provides a repeatable, verifiable and documented process for the requisite defensibility. 


NOTES:

[1]John Patzakis is the Chief Legal Officer of X1.

[2] “Market Guide for E-Discovery Solutions” Gartner, June 30, 2016

[3] (Matthew Enter., Inc. v. Chrysler Grp. LLC, 2016 WL 2957133 (N.D. Cal. May 23, 2016). (Imposing severe evidentiary including allowing the defense to use the fact of ESI spoliation to rebut testimony from the plaintiff’s witnesses and payment of attorney’s fees incurred by the defendant) Internmatch v. Nxtbigthing, LLC, 2016 WL 491483 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 8, 2016), a U.S. District Court imposed similar sanctions based upon the corporate defendant’s suspect ESI preservation efforts.

[4] Hynix Semiconductor Inc. v. Rambus Inc., 2006 WL 565893 (N.D.Cal. Jan. 5, 2006) at *27. (“The duty to preserve evidence, once it attaches, does not extend beyond evidence that is relevant and material to the claims at issue in the litigation.”)  As noted by the Zubulake court, “Clearly [there is no duty to] preserve every shred of paper, every e-mail or electronic document, and every backup tape…Such a rule would cripple large corporations.”  Zubulake v. UBS Warburg LLC, 220 F.R.D. 212, 217 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (“Zubulake IV”).

[5] Deipenhorst v. City of Battle Creek, 2006 WL 1851243 (W.D.Mich. June 30, 2006) at *3.  In noting that the “imaging of computer hard drives is an expensive process, and adds to the burden of litigation for both parties,” the Deipenhorst court declined to require the production of  full disk images absent a strong showing of good cause. See also, Fasteners for Retail, Inc. v. DeJohn et al., No 1000333 (Ct. App.Ohio April 24, 2014).

[6] The Sedona Principles, Third Edition: Best Practices, Recommendations & Principles for Addressing Electronic Document Production, 19 Sedona Conf. J. 1 (2018).

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Filed under Authentication, Best Practices, ECA, eDiscovery, ESI, Preservation & Collection

Traditional eDiscovery Processing is Now Obsolete

By John Patzakis

eDiscovery can be a very expensive process and time consuming when traditional methods are employed. With legacy processes, from the time ESI collection starts, it often takes weeks for the data to finally end up in review. Time is money, and this dramatically increases costs as well as risk.

ESI processing is a dedicated and often expensive step in the EDRM workflow. The majority of ESI processing consists of data culling and filtering, deduplication, text extraction, metadata preservation, and then staging the data for upload into a review platform, often in the form of a load (DAT) file.  Using ESI processing methods that involve on-premise hardware appliances that are not integrated with the collection process and do not integrate with review platforms like Relativity significantly increase cost and time delays. This means practitioners have to spend the often several weeks that are required by other cumbersome solutions through manual collections and multiple hand-offs.

However, the latest in collection technologies will now combine targeted collection with these processing steps that are performed “on the fly” and in the background so that the data is automatically collected, processed and uploaded into a review platform such as Relativity in one fell swoop.

The graphic below is an illustration contrasting the challenges associated with traditional eDiscovery processes, with the far more efficient new paradigm. When you engage in manual collection, and then manual on-premise hardware-based processing, and finally manual upload to review, you are extending the process by often weeks, you are dramatically increasing cost and risk with many manual data handoffs.

Providing a contrast to traditional methods, a recent Relativity webinar featured the integration of the X1 Distributed Discovery platform with its RelativityOne Collect solution. A live demonstration performed by Relativity Product Manager Greg Evans highlighted in real time how the integration dramatically improves the enterprise eDiscovery process by enabling a targeted and efficient search and collection process, with full and integrated ESI processing. Within minutes, data collected from endpoints with X1 is populated straight into a Relativity workspace, fully processed and ready for review, without any human interaction once the collection is started.

So in terms of the big picture, this X1/Relativity integration not only streamlines enterprise ESI collection, but it relegates ESI processing to a completely automated background function as an afterthought. That’s what disruption looks like.

A recording of the X1/Relativity integration webinar can be accessed here.

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Filed under Best Practices, collection, eDiscovery, Enterprise eDiscovery, ESI, Uncategorized

Relativity Highlights Its X1 Integration for ESI Collection

By John Patzakis

Recently, Relativity hosted a live webinar featuring the integration of the X1 Distributed Discovery platform with its RelativityOne Collect solution. This X1/Relativity integration enables game-changing efficiencies in the eDiscovery process by accelerating speed to review, and providing an end-to-end process from identification through production. As stated by Relativity Chief Product Officer Chris Brown: “Our exciting new partnership with X1 highlights our continued commitment to providing a streamlined user experience from collection to production…RelativityOne users will be able to combine X1’s innovative endpoint technology with the performance of our SaaS platform, eliminating the cumbersome process of manual data hand-offs and allowing them to get to the pertinent data in their case – faster.”

The webinar featured a live demonstration showing X1 quickly collecting data across multiple custodians and seamlessly importing that data into RelativityOne in minutes. Relativity Collect currently supports Office 365 and Slack sources, and Relativity Product Manager Greg Evans noted that “this X1 integration will now enable Relativity Collect to also reach emails and files on laptops, servers,” and other network sources. The webinar outlined how the Relativity/X1 integration streamlines eDiscovery processes by collapsing the many hand-offs built into current EDRM workflows to provide greater speed and defensibility. Evans also said that new normal of web-enabled collections of remote custodians and data sources was a major driver for the Relativity/X1 alliance, as “remote collections now represent 90 percent of all eDiscovery collections happening right now.”

Adam Rogers, of Complete Discovery Source, a customer of both X1 and RelativityOne, highlighted a recent major multi-national litigation where the X1 and Relativity integration was critical to the success of the project. Adam noted that the effort would have taken about 30 days utilizing traditional methods, “but with this X1 and Relativity integration, we cut it down to 3 days, because with X1, we were able to index everything in-place, search, analyze and categorize that data right away, and then release that data to Relativity for review.”

The live demonstration performed by Greg Evans highlighted in real time how the integration improves the enterprise eDiscovery collection and ECA process by enabling a targeted and efficient search and collection process, with immediate pre-collection visibility into custodial data. X1 Distributed Discovery enhances the eDiscovery workflow with integrated culling and deduplication, thereby eliminating the need for expensive and cumbersome electronically stored information (ESI) processing tools. That way, the ESI can be populated straight into Relativity from an X1 collection.

The X1 and Relativity integration addresses several pain points in the existing eDiscovery process. For one, there is currently an inability to quickly and remotely search across and access distributed unstructured data in-place, meaning eDiscovery teams have to spend weeks or even months to collect data as required by other cumbersome solutions. Additionally, using ESI processing methods that involve appliances that are not integrated with the collection will significantly increase cost and time delays.

So in terms of the big picture, with this integration providing a complete platform for efficient data search, eDiscovery and review across the enterprise, organizations will save a lot of time, save a lot of money, and be able to make faster and better decisions. When you accelerate the speed to review and eliminate over-collection, you are going to have much better early insight into your data and increase efficiencies on many levels.

A recording of the X1/Relativity integration webinar can be accessed here.

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Intelligent ESI Collection Integrated with Relativity Can Cut eDiscovery Costs by 90 Percent

By John Patzakis

One of the biggest drivers of excessive eDiscovery costs is ESI over-collection. This in turn leads to a larger amount of data entering the processing and initial review funnel. These traditional inefficient efforts are manual with numerous hand offs and a high degree of project management and consulting hours to oversee the disjointed workflow. A recent analysis by Compliance CEO Marc Zamsky, illustrated in the chart below, established that cost for collection, processing and first month hosting under a traditional preservation process can cost upwards of $12,000 per custodian:

Properly targeted preservation initiatives are permitted by the courts and can be enabled by next generation software that is able to quickly and effectively access and search these data sources in place and throughout the enterprise. The value of targeted preservation is recognized in the Committee Notes to the recent FRCP amendments, which urge the parties to reach agreement on the preservation of data and the key words, date ranges and other metadata to identify responsive materials. (Citing the Manual for Complex Litigation (MCL) (4th) §40.25(2)). And In re Genetically Modified Rice Litigation, the court noted that “[p]reservation efforts can become unduly burdensome and unreasonably costly unless those efforts are targeted to those documents reasonably likely to be relevant or lead to the discovery of relevant evidence.”

Recently we hosted a webinar with Compliance highlighting the very compelling integration of our X1 Distributed Discovery platform with Relativity. This X1/Relativity integration enables game-changing efficiencies in the eDiscovery process by accelerating speed to review, and providing an end-to-end process from identification through production. As recently stated by Relativity Chief Product Officer Chris Brown: “Our exciting new partnership with X1 highlights our continued commitment to providing a streamlined user experience from collection to production…RelativityOne users will be able to combine X1’s innovative endpoint technology with the performance of our SaaS platform, eliminating the cumbersome process of manual data hand-offs and allowing them to get to the pertinent data in their case – faster.”

The live demonstration highlighted in real time how the integration improves the enterprise eDiscovery collection and ECA process by enabling a targeted and efficient search and collection process, with immediate pre-collection visibility into custodian data. X1 Distributed Discovery significantly streamlines the eDiscovery workflow with integrated culling and deduplication, thereby eliminating the need for expensive and cumbersome electronically stored information (ESI) processing tools. That way, the ESI can be populated straight into Relativity from an X1 collection without multiple hand offs, extensive project management and inefficient data processing.

Zamsky commented that the “ability to collect directly from custodian laptops and desktops into a RelativityOne workspace without impacting custodians is a game-changer,” which will “reduce collection times from weeks to hours so that attorneys can quickly begin reviewing and analyzing ESI in RelativityOne.” In fact, Zamsky demonstrated just that by presenting a second chart showing how this streamlined approach, based upon a detailed ROI analysis, reduces eDiscovery costs by over 90 percent:

So in terms of the big picture, with this integration providing a complete platform for efficient data search, eDiscovery, and review across the enterprise, organizations will save a lot of time, save a lot of money, and be able to make faster and better decisions. When you accelerate the speed to review and eliminate over-collection and inefficient processing, you are going to have much better early insight into your data and increase efficiencies on many levels.

A recording of the X1/Relativity integration webinar can be accessed here.

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Filed under Best Practices, collection, eDiscovery, ESI, Uncategorized